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Uniting for workers' rights: the US-Brazil partnership

19 December, 2023In September 2023, the United States and Brazil launched an initiative: The Partnership for Workers' Rights (PWR). The alliance aims to champion decent work, boost labour rights, and ensure a just transition in the clean energy sector.

Valter Sanches, former general secretary of IndustriALL and now an advisor at the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and Employment, spoke on the initiative's origins.

"The partnership, proposed during the G7 meeting in Japan, reflects a mutual commitment to global labour issues, furthered by a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July.”

The PWR commits to creating meaningful job opportunities within the clean energy sector while protecting workers' rights. Mark Mittelhauser, associate deputy undersecretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Labour, emphasizes the multifaceted approach of the PWR. 

"It's about integrating the ILO Just Transition guidelines, fostering international cooperation, and promoting responsible clean energy supply chains,"

Mittelhauser explains.

Central to the PWR's mission is the empowerment of workers. Mittelhauser highlights the partnership's focus on enabling workers to claim their rights effectively, especially the right to organize and bargain collectively. 

"Empowering workers, especially those vulnerable or underrepresented, is key to closing pay gaps, combating discrimination, and advancing equity,"

he continues.

The PWR recognizes that advancing workers' rights extends beyond national legislation. The initiative leverages various tools and resources, such as the U.S.'s prohibition on goods made with forced labour and strong labour standards in trade agreements, to incentivize decent work in supply chains. 

"Our goal is to work collaboratively with Brazil and other partners to support a broad range of activities in key supply chains,"

Mittelhauser notes.

For Brazil, Sanches explains that the success of this partnership hinges on the active engagement of workers and trade unions. Mechanisms like the 'Concilioū' and the revitalized National Labour Council in Brazil ensure their voices are heard. Despite some challenges, the ongoing dialogue between various ministries and unions is key to implementing the initiative effectively.

The partnership also marks a significant step for the U.S. in its global labour rights agenda. 

"President Biden’s commitment to being a pro-worker president and the recent Presidential Memorandum on global labour rights underscores our efforts in this partnership,"

says Mittelhauser. 

The US-Brazil Partnership for Workers' Rights is more than an agreement; it's a testament to the power of international cooperation in addressing global challenges. Through its comprehensive approach to promoting decent work and protecting labour rights, the PWR sets a new standard for global labour initiatives. 

"This partnership is not just about policies; it's about people – ensuring that every worker has a voice and an opportunity to thrive in a rapidly changing world,"

says Mittelhauser.

The PWR is open to welcoming more countries to join this cause. 

“Looking ahead, the PWR aspires to raise important labour issues on the global stage. Brazil's upcoming G20 presidency and the potential involvement of countries like Canada, Argentina, Mexico, and South Africa underline the initiative's far-reaching implications,”

says Sanches

"The partnership is encouraging and sets a new global standard for protecting workers. The initiative's focus on clean energy and the just transition is promising. As we welcome this collaborative effort, we remain committed to ensuring that the voices of workers are at the forefront, driving meaningful change in the labour landscape worldwide," 

says Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary.